The history of the “Old Brewery”
The building known as the “Old Brewery” was first completed in 1898 and was used to brew Petoskey Sparkle beer until 1915. According to a 1973 article in the Petoskey News, the Petoskey Brewing Company was originally owned by Frank and Garrett Fochtman, A. Bremmeyr and John Zaiger, who also acted as the Brewmaster.
The building owes its unique stature to the brewing practices of the late 19th century. With a total of four stories, it is over 70 feet tall, yet only 20 feet deep. The breweries of the day relied on gravity (thankfully, we have electric pumps today) to move water, wort and beer through the production process. The fourth-floor cupola likely contained a large water tank serving the brewery’s needs. The fire-brewing (probably wood-fired) took place on the third floor as evidenced by the chimney flues still visible today. Fermentation and packaging likely occurred on the 2nd and 1st floor as the production followed its way down.
The building’s location may also seem a bit of an oddity at first – especially given its isolation in the late 1800’s. Two factors contributed most to its location. First, the artesian wells on the property ensured a pure supply of water for the brewing process (We, today utilize a pure artesian spring as a source of our water). Secondly, ice was harvested from Mud Lake (viewed behind the building) during the winter months and utilized throughout the year to cool the building and the finished beer.
The building is in amazing shape considering it is almost 115 years old. This is primarily due to its construction; the walls are 26 inches thick and made from solid red brick. There is also speculation that the high dunes on the opposite side of M-119 protected the building from the destructive winds of Lake Michigan. The building has remained, for the most part, untouched since its construction. The cedar shakes which now cover a portion of the exterior actually fill in the spaces where large windows once were (see original building sketch below). Porter Vaughan, who owned the building form some 25 years starting in 1973, performed restorative construction on the roofline that was damaged by years of water penetration.
Since closing in 1915, the brewery building has served as retail shops, as warehousing and perhaps even as a goat barn. It wasn’t until 2012, under the new ownership of and complete renovation by Patrick Dowd and Lou Gostinger, that beer once again flowed within the walls of the “Old Brewery”.